5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of June 19, 2017

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Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

The Thief of Workplace Productivity by Kevin Sheridan

When asked about the single greatest detractor of workplace productivity, most employees, and especially managers, will incorrectly cite workplace meetings or meeting mismanagement. While it is certainly true that a great amount of productivity is lost to these things, the real answer is workplace interruptions, especially given the push to open-office floor plans. While this design trend was intended to facilitate more communication and collaboration, it no doubt carried an unintended downside. The lower cubicle walls, communal snack bars and break rooms, and removal of office doors bring heightened interruptions, as well as concerns over keeping information confidential. A study by the University of California Irvine found that employees who work in open floor plans have 29% more interruptions than employees in offices.

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My Comment: In my work with thousands of managers around the world, I have heard this theme repeated over and over again: I can’t get anything done because I’m constantly interrupted. By my staff, by my leaders, by our clients.

If you can relate, you’re not alone. The good news is that you can reclaim some control over your interrupt-ability – even when you’re in an open-office floor plan. There are a number of ways to address the problem, and Sheridan gives you a healthy list to get you started. In addition, I would add: coaching your employees to think critically and problem-solve rather than bringing everything to you. Have the discussion with your team and colleagues. “Here’s what interruptions do to all of us. How can we solve this?” If your type of work allows for it, one client of ours created shared 90-minute “focus-zones” in the morning or afternoon where no one will interrupt another person’s train of thought except for a pre-defined emergency.

We all need time to focus and think. Reclaim both yours and your team’s.

7 Things Your Rock-Star Employees Want to Hear You Say by Karin Hurt and David Dye

These are all real statements I’ve heard in the last few weeks: “We focus on call center reps who are struggling. We’re not worried about observing our high-performing reps. “John has his job down cold. He doesn’t need more training.” “Well, he’s a bit a rough around the edges, but we overlook that. He’s so good at his job, we’re afraid to tick him off.” “Oh Sally’s good. She loves what she does. Thank God for her. She just likes to be left alone to do her thing.” I get it. Your high-performance employees never seem like the MIT. (Most Important Thing). They’ve got it. They don’t complain. You can count on them. They’re capable and don’t appear to want your help. You’ve got bigger issues on your plate. But the truth is, when I meet with such high-performers and ask what they need, here’s what they tell me they long for from their boss.

My Comment: It’s a common management trap: spend so much time dealing with low and mediocre performers that your high performers stagnate, feel unappreciated, and go somewhere else. In this article Karin and I shared at Careers in Government, we offer several suggestions on what you can say and do to help your high-performers continue their excellence and take the next steps in their career.

Make Two Lists by Seth Godin

On one list identify the grievances, disrespects and bad breaks….On the other list, write down the privileges, advantages, and opportunities you have…

My Comment: I loved this short and poignant article. Godin offers a powerful choice at the conclusion that will make a huge difference in how you lead. You probably know (or have been) a person who makes both choices.

5 Leadership Mistakes Even the Best Bosses Make by Marcel Schwantes

If you think your boss is some freak of nature and you’re the luckiest person alive, I’ll break it to you gently: He or she is human and will make mistakes.

The great ones rise up from their errors by A) acknowledging they made a mistake and correcting a behavior (think humility), or B) acknowledging a blind spot that needs to be addressed, then doing something about it.

Lets dive into a few prevalent leadership mistakes that even the best and smartest leaders tend to make.

My Comment: This is a great list in that every leader likely has made these same mistakes. I know I have. Read through these five items and target the one that most applies to you. A quick note on open-door policies (addressed in item #5) – being available is one thing…actively inviting feedback and “channeling challengers” is stronger. Listen, say thank you, and respond – even when you can’t take the desired action.

Is Modern Leadership Missing the Point by Matt at Thin Difference

One does not have to look too far to see what many have dubbed a “crisis in leadership.”

Bad guidance and poor judgment appear to be dominating our public space, putting in jeopardy our hopes for progress. Why? Because without strong leadership, individual goals reign supreme—no one knows where to look, so we put on our blinders and do what’s best for us.

So whether it’s environmental protection, healthcare, food supply or business, recent leadership has been unable to communicate unifying messages, fostering individual pursuit and harming solidarity. This trend has led some to say leadership is failing.

My Comment: An important post by a millennial looking at the world and seeing quite a bit of ‘every-one-for-themselves’ in the world. He asks important questions about what leadership looks like at the human level (as opposed to ‘global’ – which tends to worry some). Growth and progress may be unifying characteristics, but are they enough. His questions are important, though I would offer some different perspective on his premise: despite heated rhetoric and a general trend toward more authoritarian political leaders in many visible parts of the world, there are also many people working toward the future he envisions. The trend of empathy, connection, and dignity is up in the scope of human history, even if it’s not getting much press right now. I encourage Matt, and all of us, to keep that progress in mind as we work to create a better future for all of us. It’s a future that you help create with every interaction you have with another human being.



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